Council faces late decisions on budget

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Less than 24 hours before it meets to adopt the city’s 1999 budget, the Toledo city council learned what unfilled jobs the administration wants to eliminate.

When the council meets this afternoon, it will deal with a flurry of new information from the city administration – from new revenue to new costs – that has altered Toledo’s budget picture. “We’ve been asking for this information for weeks, and now we get it less than 24 hours before we have to make a final decision,” said council President Peter Ujvagi.

Most of the new information presented at yesterday’s committee meeting has been hashed out in negotiations throughout the last week and likely will have little trouble getting the approval of the council and administration. But two issues remain contentious:

* The size of the police department’s rookie class. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has insisted that the class, which was to begin last month, have 15 members. Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, up for election in May, has pushed for 30 members to offset the 30 or more officers expected to retire in 1999.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s original proposal was paid for by delaying the class. If the class began in July instead of February, he said, the salary savings could be used to hire more officers. But in the administration proposal given to the council yesterday, those savings were applied elsewhere: to help pay for the city’s share of putting police officers in public schools.

Council members have countered with their own proposal. They suggest that by shifting the city’s rent payments for One Government Center from the city’s general fund to its capital improvement fund, $375,000 could be freed to pay for the larger class and other items. The council is expected to approve that shift at tonight’s meeting, although the mayor could later veto it.

* Eliminating 21 city positions. The idea of eliminating jobs isn’t new; the mayor’s preliminary budget estimated about 30 positions would be cut, and 58 jobs have been dropped in the last two budget years. But council members were angry because the ad ministration had never detailed which, exactly, of the more than 40 unfilled city jobs would be cut.

The positions are all vacant, so no layoffs would be required. Among the positions slated to be cut: a senior attorney in the law department, a park planner, and six communication operators for the police department.

Mr. Ujvagi said the council may try to pass the budget today without outlining which positions will be eliminated.

“We may not be able to get enough information in time to decide what is the best course for the city,” he said.

Some of the other last-minute shifts in the city’s budget:

* A $250,000 expense to pay for the city’s extra use of the Lucas County jail.

* More than $20,000 to pay for a new planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions.

* A projected $750,000 from reduced workers compensation premiums and reduced claim levels.

Several council members were angered by the sudden nature of the changes. Councilwoman Edna Brown criticized the city’s decision to cut the overtime budget for Municipal Court without telling court clerk Maggie Thurber.

City officials defended themselves by saying the process had been rushed by the council’s expedited timetable. State law required that the city pass its balanced budget by the end of the month.

The council will meet at 1 p.m. to consider more budgetary matters, then have its regular meeting at 4 p.m., which Mr. Ujvagi warned could last past midnight.